How do you prepare your 17-21 year old to become a successful young adult? Here are 6 ideas on changing how you love and parent, being present yet detached:

  1. Envision what it will look like, specifically, for you! Not just for your young adult.  You’ll be more….what?  Able to put time into a hobby? Picture yourself doing that.  Visualize details. What will you be feeling like? How will your life be different?  Will you finally officially allow yourself to date?  To be more relaxed?  Be free to spend time with friends?  See yourself in these ways.  Then begin to create some of them.
  2. When the two of you talk, empower them with loving silence, pauses, and hmmmms. Listen, reflect, then empathize.  The goal now is to help them become individuals, not young adults who are dependent upon us.  Say, “Wow, that sounds tough.”  Pause, pause, pause.  “Well, you’ll figure it out.” Convey confidence in them and they’ll have more of it in themselves. Please don’t criticize them.  They’re more critical of themselves than you know.  Ask questions, if you want to convey your curiosity, and get them thinking.
  3. Stop enabling them, and believe in them instead. Don’t fear their mistakes!  Mistakes are how they’ll learn, and 1 good mistake is better than 10 successes for changing a behavior or learning a lesson.  When we succeed, we don’t usually know all of why we did. But when we fail, we figure out quickly what didn’t work. Our young adults will sail on success, but they’ll build and rebuild from their mistakes.  Operate from a place of kindness and trust, from deep within yourself, knowing that their process will lead them to where they need to go.
  4. “Healthy detachment is healthy connection” (B. Reedy). You’ve taught them most of what they need to know. Their foundations and the tools they need are within them.  Now they just have to stretch those wings and learn to fly.  How will they learn?  Not by sitting in the nest with you feeding them.  By trial and error.  By testing; getting into a fender-bender, by overdrawing their bank account and managing the consequences, having their heart broken, or not studying enough for a Bio final and getting a C when an A was within their reach.  By dealing with a friend’s betrayal. By individuating, formulating a sense of self that is separate from you, becoming their own unique person who knows a lot of who they are by the age of 25.  They may try several things – different hair, a beard, new glasses, doing stand-up comedy in their free time, taking up pole dancing, volunteering at the county jail.  Encourage them to get outside their own comfort zone.  They’ll change, of course, we all do. But having an internal axis which allows for growth and change will help them in all of life, as they encounter new challenges.
  5. Role model managing your own difficult emotions. Psychological ups and downs are normal in life. Yet parents don’t often express their own process to their kids.  Share a couple of sentences here and there about your challenges, and how you managed them.  They don’t really benefit from hearing advice, ie: “When I was your age, I…” But they’ll pause to listen to you speak from your heart without trying to influence or manage them. They can tell the difference.
  6. Allow them to manage their own money, even if you’re the one putting most            of it into their account . They’ll do better if they get a checkbook, writing the   check for their own college bills, their own oil changes, their own therapy. Encourage them to schedule their plane flights, make their dentist and eye doctor appointments, budget their food, gas and spending money. These things make them feel like adults, and with practice they’ll more certainly become adults.

Resources:  The Journey of the Heroic Parent, by Brad Reedy.  The Conscious Parent, by Shefali Tsabary. The Parallel Process, by Krissy Pozatek.

~Pamela W. Brinker, LCSW
Copyright 2016